All these years later, if anybody remembers Holly Beth Vincent, it’s probably as the writer of “Tell That Girl To Shut Up,” which was a minor hit single for fellow members of the “Where Are They Now?” file, Transvision Vamp.
But in 1981, in the wake of the Pretenders and, lets be honest, Pat Benatar, vaguely new-wavish looking chicks fronting vaguely new-wavish bands felt like it could be a huge thing, thus the hype surrounding the debut album by Holly & The Italians, The Right to Be Italian.
And as much as I’d love to report that The Right To Be Italian is a long-lost classic, I never really loved it that much, though I gave it numerous chances over the years, mostly because the one song that truly got me, the is-what-it-says-it-is “Rock Against Romance,” burns as bright as ever 35 years later.
An anthem from the start, featuring long soaring guitar lines over an churning rhythm, “Rock Against Romance” — the title itself an allusion to Britain’s contemporary Rock Against Racism movement — takes its sweet time getting to the first verse, which Vincent sings against the wake the song has already created.
Over-enunciating every single syllable in order to make sure we’re paying attention, Holly ain’t fucking around here, and when she gets to the chorus, the switch to singing in a normal cadence is almost jarring.
For you, from me, got nothing
For you, from me, that’s all
I will not vi-o-late you
But I’ll help you load your gun
At least that’s what I think she’s singing. There aren’t any lyrics for “Rock Against Romance” out there on the internet, and I’m transcribing while listening to it over and over again, so I could be wrong.
What I’m not wrong about is the last minute of the song, where the mood actually shifts to hopeful, and the dudes in the Italians come in on one of those massed punk rock choirs singing the last verse over and over again:
Someone told me once
There really is a wonderland
Do you think so?
Could it be so?
Oh I hope so
And while they’re singing this over and over again, Holly is singing “WONDERLANNNNNNNND” over and over and over as a counterpoint and “Rock Against Romance” ratchets higher and higher and higher and until it finally collapses on a far more hopeful note than it started.
“Rock Against Romance”
“Rock Against Romance performed live
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